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Credit: 
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBA

Olynyk Returns from FIBA Tourney in Prime Shape

The first few days back at practice can be grueling for NBA players after returning from the leisure of a long offseason.

Conditioning-wise, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens says “everybody is always in a different place.”

In Kelly Olynyk’s case, the third-year forward is in an advantageous position from a stamina standpoint, having just completed a successful FIBA Americas tournament run with Team Canada two weeks ago.

“I’ve been playing for a little bit now, I’m the flow of things,” Olynyk said prior to the C’s second day of practice on Sunday afternoon. “It’s just a matter of getting back in the flow of this system.”

Olynyk got himself into quite an aggressive flow with Team Canada, playing 10 games from Sept. 1 to Sept. 12.

“There’s really not another tournament in the world where you’re playing 10 games in 12 days,” he said. “You know, full-length, high-level, high-emotion games with something huge riding on the line, so it’s definitely a tournament where you can take away a lot... whether it’s confidence, skill, or just experience in general.”

Olynyk was one of the most experienced athletes on the Canadian national team, which also featured NBA players such as Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas and Anthony Bennett.

Team Canada went on a tear with that talented rotation, winning seven games in a row from Sept. 2 through Sept. 9 by an average of 27 points.

Olynyk’s best performance came in a 79-78 semifinal loss to Venezuela on Sept. 11, during which he tallied 34 points and 13 rebounds. That one-point loss, much to Olynyk’s dismay, was the deciding factor in Canada's bid to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, as the team fell just short. But he remains hopeful that they can qualify next summer and is happy to take away great leadership experience from the tournament, a quality that he hopes to bring to the Celtics this season.

Olynyk said being one of Canada’s premier leaders was “definitely a great role to have, so I’ll just translate as much as I can over here and just keep playing basketball.”

Stevens thinks the level of competition that Olynyk just experienced will be beneficial as the 24-year-old enters his third year in the league.

“I just think that the concept of constantly playing five-on-five and getting the different experiences, playing for a really good coach [Jay Triano], doing a lot of creative things and just continuing to play is a good thing,” said Stevens. “No matter what, I don’t think there’s any negative to that.”

One negative aspect of NBA players competing on the international level is the risk of injury. Olynyk sustained a knee injury during one of his early-round games with Team Canada, but luckily it turned out to be minor and the 7-footer did not miss much time.

Because of that risk, some organizations are hesitant to allow their players to participate in major tournaments so close to the start of the season, but coach Stevens says he is “a big believer in the international experience. I realize there’s risks that come with that, but it’s a great opportunity for these guys and they’ll always be supported in that from my end.”

Olynyk is thankful to have such a positive outlook from his coach, since he possesses great pride in representing his home country.

“There’s few ways that you can represent your country on a national level,” said Olynyk. “One of them is war, one of them is sports … Having the opportunity to do that, put the country on your back and be able to fight for a whole nation is pretty special.”

Now that Olynyk is back in Boston, where he averaged 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds last season, he’s ready to fight for Celtics Nation.

He returns to a Boston team that is much improved in the front court, with the addition of veterans David Lee and Amir Johnson. Because of that depth, Olynyk knows he will have to battle in order to earn his playing time.

He says he expects the competition among the bigs to be “really high,” but added, “That’s what you want in a team. You want to know that everyday when you come to practice you’re going to have to work and you’re going to have to give it your best.”

Olynyk clearly put forth his best effort while playing for Team Canada this summer. Now he’s ready to do the same for the Celtics.

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